Monday, April 17, 2006

Decisions Decisions

I heard someone say recently that the decision to give your life to Christ is the most important decision you'll ever make. And I would agree with that.

However (you saw this coming, didn't you?), its not the hardest decision you'll ever make. The hardest decision is not to GIVE your life to Christ, but to LIVE your life for Christ.

After all, giving your life to Christ is usually the climax of a process of some kind, where the Spirit is working on your heart, and you are listening, engaged and focused on what God is doing in your life. And for some time following that decision, you can thrive on the energy of that decision, the power and joy that God gives. A sort of Christian 'honeymoon period'.

But sooner or later, the decision begins to seem like a long time ago, and the daily grind (aka 'this present darkness') can begin to push, pull, and draw you. It can draw you back toward the life from which you were saved, or it can push you off the path God has called you to, onto a side path that somehow seems easier, smoother, better.

Or perhaps more likely, you begin to look at your day and think 'sure, I could study/pray/do something else Christ-like, but there will be time for that tomorrow/this weekend/during spring break/this summer/later; I've really got to catch up on my sleep/reading/favorite show I've been recording/email/favorite book series I'm behind on/blogging. I've got eternity to spend with God anyway, right?'

Truly, the hardest decision we make for Christ is the one that comes along when we'd rather be doing something else.

So...whatcha doin today?


Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Dance

Regarding evangelism, from Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian:

Instead of conquest, instead of a coercive rational argument or an emotionally intimidating sales pitch or an imposing crusade or an aggressive debating contest where we hope to 'win' them to Christ, I think of it like a dance. You know, in a dance, nobody wins and nobody loses. Both parties listen to the music and try to move with it. In this case, I hear the music of the gospel, and my friend doesn't, so I try to help him hear it and move with it. And like a dance, I have to ask if the other person wants to participate. There's a term for pulling someone who doesn't want to dance into a dance: assault. But if you pull someone in who wants to learn, and if you're good with the music yourself, it can be a lot of fun!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Your Mission, should you choose to accept it...

John 17:4, Jesus' prayer to God, shortly before his crucifixion:
I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do.

How did Jesus glorify God? By completing the tasks God assigned him, down to the last detail.

How do we glorify God? At least in part, the same way.

I don't know about you, but I need to do better at listening for my assignments...


Monday, April 10, 2006

A Word from Haggai

People who know me really well know that I have an odd quirk when it comes to movies. Regardless of how ridiculous the plot or how irritating the characters, for some reason I just can't stand to stop in the middle ... if I start it I have to finish it, no matter how painful.

Perhaps similarly, if I flip open my Bible without a particularly specific destination in mind, and if my Bible happens to open to the beginning of a book, I tend to settle in. Yesterday -- after a very timely lesson from both the sermon and class reminding me that if I want to hear from God I've got to be in the word -- yesterday I flipped it open and landed on Haggai.

Now, you don't get much Haggai these days. Lots of New Testament, some Genesis, Exodus, of course the Samuels/Chronicles/Kings, Psalms, and a few other books from time to time, but Haggai ... not so much.

But I found myself at the very first verse of the very first chapter, and was fished in.

For those of me who have never read Haggai before, it turns out that Haggai was a prophet, sent by God to tell the peeps that they need to get off their lazy tushkas and rebuild the temple. Apparently God had previously told them to do it, and they had begun the task, but eventually decided that the timing wasn't right and (conveniently) each went home and instead spent the time and money they would have used on the temple to redecorate their own homes, and more generally to build their own kingdoms (so to speak).

So God sends Haggai to tell Israel that 'you're all Trading Spaces, and meanwhile My House is a wreck'. Worse, he points out that they obviously have ignored some warnings he's already been giving them about this: he hasn't been blessing their income, their savings, their harvest, etc etc.
I get to the end of Haggai (all two chapters), and I find myself realizing that in January God was calling me to rebuild my relationship with Him; to dedicate time each day to being in his word, to prayer; to making my life more about him and less about me. And that motivation lasted for a whopping few weeks, before I found myself far too busy for such things. After all, I've got a job that keeps me very busy, a wife and 2 small kids who deserve my attention, and ... um ... other important things that oddly slip my mind right now.

But about that point in my thoughts, I'm kind of vaguely paging through Zechariah (the next book east of Haggai), and I notice that God highlighted through Zechariah the blessings that would come to the people when they finished rebuilding the temple.

So I'm praying about all of this, and I'm considering what God might be saying to me in particular. And part of me is retreading the doubts I've had lately, wondering how many messages I find in scripture that are from God, and how many are just my over-analysis of the text, looking for something about or for me.

And as I'm kind of skimming back through, reading some study notes in my Bible relating to a few particular verses, I'm surprised to note that the people responded and began to rebuild the temple on the '24th day of the 9th month', which the footnotes in my Bible equate to September 21.

And see, September 21 is my birthday.

Now, maybe it is pure coincidence. Maybe so. It seems unlikely that God timed my birthday to be the same day that they restarted rebuilding the temple. But I'll tell you this: it made the hair stand up on my arms, and I got this weird feeling when I saw it.

So here are my working conclusions: God has a plan for me, but I can mess it up (or at least push 'pause') by not cooperating with him along the way. He'll bless me if I'll fully rebuild our relationship, and stop putting off spending time with him. He may even bless others through me. But if I'm too busy either rearranging my life on my own, building my own kingdom, or whatever, he'll most likely let me suffer the consequences of that until I cut it out. And there will be consequences, Haggai was clear about that (consistent with others of course).

Anyone have a comment? Do you suppose I'm on the right track?


P.S. this morning, got up at 6am, went through some of Jesus' words in John. He sure tells us often to ask in his name and expect results. Makes me uncomfortable. But that's for another day.